Friday 14 December 2018

History of the Rebel rock scene under the spotlight

Book explores the colourful and vibrant history of Cork's ever evolving rock scene

Rory Gallagher
Rory Gallagher
Simple Kid
Nun Attax (and Finbarr Donnelly)

Bill Browne

Over the years the Rebel County has proven to be a fertile spawning ground for more than its fair share of successful Irish rock acts. From the 1950's to the present day music fans in Cork have been fortunate to see a plethora of local acts play live in intimate venues before many of them went to enjoy national, and in some cases, global success. 

In the revised second edition of his book 'Cork Rocks - From Rory Gallagher to the Sultans of Ping', Cork author Mark McAvoy chronicles the vibrant Cork music scene over five glorious decades. From the big bands of the post war era to the rock and punk acts of the 60's, 70's and 80's through to the indie inspired 1990's, the colourful book paints a fascinating picture charting the rise and rise rock music on Leeside. 

Almost inevitably a large chunk of the book is devoted to the late, great Rory Gallagher, detailing how he went from playing small Cork venues to become an international star and, just as importantly, an inspirational figure to countless Irish musicians. It also tells the story of Finbarr Donnelly, the Belfast-born singer who was the poster boy for Cork's punk scene during the 1980's with his bands Nun Attax and Five Go Down to the Sea? prior to his tragic death in London at the age of 27. 

Originally published in 2009 to great critical acclaim, the updated book includes stories and anecdotes about seminal Cork acts including Taste, Microdisney, Simple Kid, The Frank and Walters and The Sultans of Ping.

In addition to featuring the acts that emerged from Cork, McAvoy also pays homage to the venues that became synonymous with the local music scene over the years including the Arcadia and Sir Henry's. In fact it was the closure of Sir Henry's, which had once hosted Nirvana and Sonic Youth as well as countless Cork indie and alternative acts that inspired McAvoy to originally pen the book. 

In an interview with the Irish News, he said that one of the consequences of the Celtic Tiger was the loss of venues as they were torn down to make way for new developments. He said that growing up he took these places for granted and that they would always be there. 

"I thought it was important to document these places that were starting to disappear, like Sir Henry's: what they meant to people and the bands and the kind of culture that sprang up around them, what it was all about," he said. "Obviously, as a lifelong music fan and working as a journalist, I would have been interviewing bands before gigs and stuff. I had a lot of connections and also knew some of the key people personally, so I thought it was kind of time to do it while there was still time to do it."  

With exclusive photographs and interviews with musicians, managers, DJ's and promoters the book takes a fond look back at the characters and places that have combined to make Cork rock over the years.